Cubs deal Maholm, Johnson to Braves
Chicago also trades catcher Soto to Rangers for Minor League right-hander
CHICAGO -- As the Cubs were scoring runs in a nine-run fifth, general manager Jed Hoyer was making changes to the roster.
The Cubs dealt pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves on Monday night, and on Tuesday completed a deal that sent catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers.
Hoyer and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have both made it clear they intend to make changes, and they got a head start before Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Prospects acquired by Cubs
- Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: One of the big three pitching prospects in the Braves' system, Vizcaino was still No. 54 overall on MLB.com's Top 100 list and No. 3 on the Braves' Top 20 despite missing the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. When healthy, he has the makings of three above-average to plus pitches with his fastball, curve and improving changeup. He has decent command, giving him the chance to be a starter, but his power stuff does play up out of the bullpen and with concerns about his durability, that could be his eventual long-term role.
- Jaye Chapman, RHP: Drafted by the Braves back in 2005, Chapman has had success pitching out of the bullpen and was added to the 40-man rosters as a result last offseason. He doesn't have closer's stuff, though he has finished games in the Minors, now spending his second season in Triple-A. He's struggled a bit with command, with a 4.3 BB/9 ratio, but he's also struck out 9.6 per nine in his career. Now 25, the Cubs may give him his first big league opportunity and he has a ceiling as a middle man.
- Top 20 Prospects: Cubs | Braves
- -- Jonathan Mayo
As Johnson and Soto were taken out of Monday's game -- a 14-4 win over the Pirates -- and got the news, they hugged their teammates and then exited.
"You hate to be pulling guys out of games," Hoyer said. "It isn't comfortable to go down there and make moves. I don't like to make lineup changes."
"I can't lie to you, it was the first time I've ever gone through that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
The Cubs will receive Minor League right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman from the Braves in return. Chapman, 25, was 3-6 with seven saves and a 3.52 ERA in 40 games with Triple-A Gwinnett. Vizcaino, 21, may be the prize in the deal. A power arm, he was ranked as the Braves' No. 3 prospect. He made his big league debut with the Braves last season, and was 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in 17 relief outings. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he had in March.
"We've been really clear all along that we're not contending right now, and we need to take assets that are shorter term and turn them into longer-term assets," Hoyer said Monday night.
Johnson, 35, started in center field against the Pirates and scored two runs, but he was pulled for a pinch-hitter before his second at-bat in the Cubs' nine-run fifth. The veteran was batting .302 this season, including a .333 average against left-handed pitching.
Maholm, 30, was 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his past six starts dating to June 29 and 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA overall. He has thrown six straight starts of at least six innings in which he's given up one or no runs.
Soto, 29, has been in the Cubs' system since he was drafted in 2001. He was pulled after the Pirates' sixth inning and also greeted in the dugout by handshakes and hugs from his teammates. Soto was batting .199 in 52 games this season. He missed time because of a torn meniscus in his left knee.
The 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, Soto was being paid $4.3 million this year and was on track to go to arbitration for the third time this offseason.
The Cubs got right-handed pitcher Jacob Brigham and a player to be named or cash from the Rangers in exchange. Brigham, 24, was 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A Frisco.
"It is strange telling two players in the middle of the game," Hoyer said. "It started to leak out about Paul, and I wanted to make sure he heard from us first. Both guys took it great. In the case of Paul, he said he grew up a Braves fan.
"Everything about that game was unusual," Hoyer said. "You don't experience that too often, but I guess near the Deadline, some strange things happen."
The Cubs did have an option on Maholm for next season.
"It came down to getting a 21-year-old with that arm," Hoyer said. "I don't think we would've been able to get that kind of value frankly if [Maholm] was only under control for a couple months."
Ryan Dempster, on the other hand, whom the Braves also sought, would be a rental because he can be a free agent after this season. The Cubs knew the Braves wanted a starting pitcher. It was just a matter of finding the right one, Hoyer said.
"We'd had a lot of dialogue, we'd discussed a lot of players and it probably made revisiting something a little easier," Hoyer said.
The Cubs aren't finished, Hoyer said.
"I think it'll be busy tonight, and I think it'll be a busy morning," he said. "Whether we make other deals, we'll see. I know there will be a lot of phone calls and a lot of activity."
The Cubs were expected to promote pitcher Casey Coleman and catcher Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa in time for Tuesday's game. There were reports that top prospect Brett Jackson had been pulled from Iowa's game, and also was headed to the Cubs, but team officials said they didn't expect the outfielder to be part of the group.
"I'm not going to comment on the guys coming up," Hoyer said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.